The council workers’ strikes across Southampton came together on Monday as up to 1,000 workers marched to say they won’t swallow pay cuts.
Unison and Unite members across four council sections have struck so far—and Monday saw them all walk out together.
They are fighting bosses’ threats to sack them unless they take a 4.5 percent pay cut.
Traffic warden Mark Humphries has been on strike for two weeks. “The pay cut would mean about £1,000 a year out of my wages,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Look at the cost of living—at electric and gas prices. We’d have to cut back to just the bare essentials.”
The council workers were joined by striking cleaners from the local hospital.
Together they marched to a rally outside the council’s civic centre.
People cheered as the sea of purple and red Unison and Unite flags made its way through the city centre streets.
Tory council leader Royston Smith was the focus for many people’s anger—and the favourite chant of the day was “No ifs, no buts—stick your Tory cuts!”
Many who weren’t on strike came out to support the lunchtime rally. Former union convenor Terry Hinton was there. “A hell of a lot of things we fought for, for years and years, are now just being cut—taken away just like that,” he said.
Health and social care worker Hayley Garner was on her lunch break—but said she was ready to join the strikes.
“I’d support it,” she said. “It’s not only pay cuts, it’s cuts to services as well, like the day service. That’s what this is about.”
At the rally, Unite regional organiser Ian Woodland hailed the “incredible turnout”.
He told the crowd that the bosses “need to be met with the full force of the labour movement throughout the country”.
“This dispute isn’t over until they withdraw the sacking notices,” added Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker.
He said talks were planned for Thursday—and their strike committee will then meet the next day to decide how to respond.
“Let the message go out loud and clear from here today,” Unison assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie told the crowd.
“The resistance is taking place in Southampton—and it will roll out across the rest of the country.”
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle